Taking time out to take care of yourself takes, well, time. And if, like me, you enter the new year lamenting with 20/20 hindsight the quality time you should have taken to prioritize your self-care, seize the moment: Head toward the center of Oregon for an abundance of opportunities to center yourself.
The great thing about Central Oregon is no matter which direction you come from, you’re going to experience thought-provoking beauty along the way. I recently took a break from Portland and zipped past miles of old-growth evergreen forest and across the spine of the West Cascades seeking a different kind of “wellness” escape than, say, an organized yoga retreat.
Despite what all of the health trends and self-care articles might suggest, there’s more than one path to inner well-being. In Central Oregon, that path often leads you to a rustic ranch where you can find your peace on horseback, on a quieter hiking trail and, yes, doing some hot yoga, if you want it. And even if you’re going sober, you can still float in hops in America’s first beer spa. Here’s what I recently put on the agenda for my DIY retreat to Oregon’s high desert.
Kicking It on the Ranch
Brasada Ranch is my go-to resort in Central Oregon when I want to get away from it all. Go ahead: Breathe in and let the brisk, ponderosa pine-, juniper- and sage-scented air invigorate you. The jaw-droppingly beautiful vista that defines Brasada’s Powell Butte-based property may inspire you to jump right into an exhaustive itinerary of activities offered on the sprawling 1,800-plus-acre property. But reserve some time for yourself first.
It takes effort not to feel well at Brasada. The ranch looks like it was designed to be an oasis for well-being. Ease into a moment of zen by one of the many fire pits — or your own private fireplace or hot tub. While you’re at it, I recommend indulging in the house-made s’mores and, depending on your ground rules, perhaps a glass of Brasada’s recently released cuvée, a collaboration between the resort and Dundee-based Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards.
Whether you’re doing self-care solo or bringing along a bestie or a boo, a stay in a suite within the main Ranch House is perfect for two. If your trip includes family, friends or a little of both, for added privacy and spaciousness, definitely go for one of Brasada’s desert-chic Sage Canyon group cabins so everyone can be well and comfortable together.
The four-star resort is nearest to the cities of Redmond and Prineville; it’s about a 45-minute drive southeast of the charming western-themed town of Sisters and about 30 minutes northeast of Bend. It’s brimming with amenities and activities to do on-site, but it’s also ideally located for day trips when you want to venture out.
Also try: Black Butte Ranch. If you already know you’ll want to leave the ranch and venture into town to check out the local scene, you might prefer a stay closer in at Black Butte Ranch. This private resort community is a mere 8 miles away from downtown Sisters and is a great option in the off-season for vacationing visitors looking for an upscale but affordable stay. Accommodations range from private lodge rooms to rustic cabins and are sprinkled across the pastoral property, where amenities include two 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, spa access, pubs and restaurants on-site and more than 18 miles of bike paths. You can search for even more places to stay in Central Oregon here.
Sweat It Out in the Studio
Brasada’s amenities in terms of fitness and wellness are so popular that in addition to the existing 17,000-square-foot Athletic Center, they’ve recently expanded their offerings with The Studio, a new state-of-the-art building with a spacious deck facing the Cascade Mountains. Opened in fall 2019, the Studio is where you’ll find in-demand yoga, pilates, strength training and related classes. At the Athletic Center, you can also take advantage of the spa facilities and a family-friendly indoor pool. Even if you visit in the cooler months, the two seasonal outdoor pools — including the brand-new adults-only pool, complete with a side lap pool, bar and food carts — is enough to justify a summer return.
Ride Till You Can’t No More
While I enjoy a good soak and stretch, spending time in nature year-round grounds me. It’s a major part of my personal wellness needs. This goes doubly so when horses are involved. Give your car or golf cart a rest; you’re in good hands with Chris Buller, the head wrangler, or any of the crew of wranglers and equine tour guides at Brasada’s Equestrian Center. Buller and crew ensure that riders of all levels are matched with horses — of the many cared for at the resort’s stables (some rescues) — trained for any level of riding ability. In addition to over 900 acres of pristine riding trails, private lessons and pony rides for youth are also available. Ride for pleasure, western style, for a short time or for miles on end, carefree as a cowboy on holiday.
Trek to Rivers and Peaks
If trotting along the “Old Town Road” — hey, Lil Nas X — on a horse isn’t for you, no problem; you can still experience similar bliss on foot. Get your endorphins pumping and your heart rate up on a number of popular and some lesser-known hiking trails. Routes vary from easy to moderately challenging. The West Metolius River Trail is great for all levels of hikers. It’s a moderately trafficked, 7.3-mile out-and-back endeavor with a bonus: a waterfall. It’s also open to dogs. You get unmatched views of Mt. Bachelor and other snowy peaks when you trek up the moderate Tumalo Mountain Trail, popular year-round for snowshoeing and hiking. In Bend you can even trek up an old volcanic cinder cone at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint — an easy way to get a panoramic look at the urban landscape.
If you really want to up the ante, you can climb the South Sister, the third tallest peak in Oregon. It’s a huffing 4,900 feet of elevation gain over about 5.5 miles, a nontechnical but challenging hike. Nothing makes me feel more like a boss than conquering a mountain, but there are better times to go than others, with South Sister best experienced in summer and early fall; go midweek to avoid crowds, and make sure you’ve secured the necessary permit in advance.
A Different Kind of Spa Day
After a day of hiking, you may prefer to kick back with a beer or sit back and soak sore muscles. If both of those options sound appealing, try some “Hops Hydrotherapy” at Hop in the Spa, American’s first “brew-inspired spa.” Hop in the Spa harnesses the naturally occurring medicinal and therapeutic benefits of hops for a pleasurable sipping and soaking experience.
Established inside a century-old home on Sisters’ main drag, the spa looks unconventional in every way. You’ll start at the bar in the back of the house. While the proprietor arranges your soaking station, they’ll set you up with a warm, homemade pretzel and a cold pint of one of famed Bend-based Deschutes Brewery’s finest suds.
Hops — whether they’re processed into a salve, bath salt or oil — are used in every treatment. The owners say drinking a beer is encouraged for added “hoppiness,” though you don’t have to imbibe to enjoy the unique spa experience. You can also try what they dub “Hop in a Cup,” a hops-infused coffee product available for visitors who want to experience the hop therapy while maintaining their sobriety. Hoppiness, indeed.